The Federal Hill Neighborhood Association (FHNA) requested a postponement from the Liquor Board (and had requested a postponement in writing earlier in the week. They explained to the Board that the neighborhood had not had any notice that the hearing would occur, since the last time that the property was posted was in August 2013. Chairman Fogleman asked whether they could really argue that they did not have notice of the hearing, since the neighborhood and the applicants had lately been engaged in extensive negotiations regarding the expansion. The FHNA representative replied that FHNA of course had notice that the applicants wished to expand but they did not have specific notice of the particular hearing, which, she argued, Article 2B requires in section 10-202(a). FHNA also argued that the applicants submitted their application prematurely, because the application was submitted within six months of a prior denial. Mr. Woolman, for the applicants, noted that BLLC Rule 2.11 states that applicants shall not be permitted to apply for the SAME transfer within six months, and he argued that the applications submitted was for a different transfer.
In denying FHNA’s postponement request, Chairman Fogleman said the following: An amended applciation was filed early this month, and no one has ever heard of posting being done for an amended application. That’s just not something the Board has ever engaged in. He added that the license viability issue has been talked about for a long long time. He concluded that FHNA was very much constructively aware that this hearing is going to take place, because they had gathered a lot of people in the audience.
Mr. Woolman, attorney for the applicants, called Mr. Peter Auchincloss as his first witness. The applicants hired Mr. Auchincloss to be a community liaison and to negotiate with the neighborhood associations. Mr. Auchincloss reached an agreement with several of the neighborhood associations, including the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association. Some of the terms of the agreement include: a maximum capacity of 155 people, a 50%-50% food-alcohol ratio, earlier closing times, a city valet plan, and a higher elevation of the front wall of the establishment. Mr. Auchincloss stated that he had had eleven meetings with three community associations since the previous hearing in 2014. Mr. Woolman also submitted letters of support and petition signatures from community members. SBNA voted in favor of the agreement, 23-11, at their last meeting.
Mr. Foti, one of the two applicants, described the concept of the proposed establishment. The place will have a 155-person capacity and will include a German-style outdoor beer garden (enclosed by four walls) serving high end beer and food. The average beer from the menu will cost $8, and they will also sell pretzels, weinerschnitzel, and other German food. Mr. Austin has owned and operated many restaurants and has almost forty years’ experience in the restaurant industry.
FHNA residents then presented testimony about why the community still doesn’t want or need an additional liquor license in Federal Hill. One resident expressed concerns that three of the largest bars in the city started as much smaller operations, which grew over the years through expansions. Another said that the bar scene in this area is getting out of control. Judy O’Brien, Founding President of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance testified about drunkenness in the middle of the day, which is difficult to explain to her children. She asserted that Baltimore cannot be a great city of only revolving twenty-somethings, which was met with general applause.
Many of the residents expressed sincere concerns about the enforceability of the capacity limits in the Memorandum of Understanding between CrossBar and South Baltimore Neighborhood Association. The applicants are keeping their floor plan more or less the same as their original plan. Essentially, according to the community, the applicants are building a 300-person restaurant but agreeing to fill it only halfway.
Two Baltimore City police officers described the nightly chaotic scene in Federal Hill at closing time. Chaotic scene. The community showed the Board a video of a typical Saturday evening in September on Cross Street at closing time. The video showed a large number of intoxicated, boisterous people filling the street. The police officers confirmed that the video showed a typical Saturday night.
Chairman Fogleman went through letters of opposition from individuals and community organizations in the file. He noted that one of the letter writers stated that he would rather have a crack house open in Federal Hill than another bar.